(A short stage play in which the main character is stuck inside the darkness of a nightmare, then comes across something unexpected. I originally wrote this for a theatre company in San Francisco looking for nightmare themed short plays, but it was turned down, so I rewrote it and posted it here.)
CAST OF CHARACTERS
CLYDE MARCUS – GAME SHOW HOST
THE NIGHTMARE PLAYERS: CHATTY NEIGHBOR, GROSS COWORKER, PARTISAN EXTREMIST, OBNOXIOUS DRUNK, TECH MOGUL, CHILD 1, CHILD 2, AND CHILD 3
SCENE: INSIDE WALLY’S HEAD DURING A NIGHTMARE
(WALLY is wandering around in the darkness of his own subconscious. As he looks around apprehensively at the unknown terrain, he comes across a bright light, and discovers a television studio. CLYDE MARCUS, a man in a loud, slick suit and holding a microphone, advances upon him. CLYDE always speaks like he’s smiling, especially when he says something sarcastic.)
WALLY: Where am I?
CLYDE: Come on down! And welcome to the latest game show that’s sweeping the nation…(audience joins in) Your Worst Nightmare!
CLYDE: I’m your host Clyde Marcus, and with me is today’s victim, I mean guest, ha ha, a middle school teacher from beautiful Brisbane, California, Wally Milsap!
WALLY: What’s going on here?
CLYDE: What are you, deaf? This is a game show!
WALLY: But I’ve never heard of it.
CLYDE: That’s because it’s brand new.
WALLY: But you just said it’s sweeping the nation.
CLYDE: It is!
WALLY: That doesn’t make sense.
CLYDE: Who says it has to? This is a nightmare, and not just any nightmare, but…(with audience) Your Worst Nightmare!
WALLY: Look, I don’t remember signing up for any game show.
CLYDE: Because you didn’t, and that’s what makes it a nightmare!
WALLY: Is there a way out of here?
CLYDE: Of course not, dummy, it’s a nightmare. Now let me explain the rules. Contestants are presented with nightmarish scenarios and they have to respond with either, ‘Not my worst nightmare,’ or, ‘Yes! This is my worst nightmare! Please! For the love of god! Make it stop!’
WALLY: Can you make it stop now?
CLYDE: Ha! Don’t be silly, we haven’t even started yet. Now the first scenario, nightmarish neighbors.
WALLY: But I live in a good neighborhood.
CLYDE: Just because they’re being nice to you doesn’t mean they aren’t tearing you apart behind your back.
WALLY: Really? I never got that feeling.
CLYDE: Well I’m not referring to that kind of nightmare anyway. The nightmare I’m talking about is that neighbor who just doesn’t know when to shut up and keeps holding you hostage as they drone on and on. Don’t we all have that kind of neighbor, people?
(Audience shouts in agreement.)
CLYDE: The people have spoken. Now let us commence with nightmare scenario one.
(CHATTY NEIGHBOR enters.)
CHATTY NEIGHBOR: Hi, neighbor! How’s your day? I’m doing fine myself, just bought a new washing machine, a front loader. They save water and they’re fun to watch as they spin round and round. The kids just love it! Oh, know what their latest school project is? Civilizations that collapsed centuries ago and nobody cares about anymore! Really interesting stuff. Hey, did you know that bees have a flight range of over 32,000 acres? And have over 16,000 species? Yeah, I read a lot of Snapple caps. So my family and I are going on vacation next week and we’re thinking about trying kayaking. Do you know a good place we can go for that? We just can’t decide. Of course that means we’ll have to get the car serviced, stock up for the trip. Say, while we’re gone could you water our garden and feed our piranha? Keep your hand out of the tank and you’ll be fine.
CLYDE: All right, Chatty Neighbor, that’ll be enough.
CHATTY NEIGHBOR: Oh! Did you hear the latest about Mrs. Weintraub? Turns out she isn’t a hoarder after all, she just kept ordering stuff from Amazon because she’s sleeping with the driver.
CHATTY NEIGHBOR: I tried to alert Mr. Weintraub, but turns out it was his idea!
(Two SECURITY PEOPLE enter, take hold of CHATTY NEIGHBOR, and pull her off stage as she keeps talking.)
CHATTY NEIGHBOR: Not that I like to get into other people’s business, because that just isn’t me! (Finally dragged offstage)
CLYDE: Wow, some people just don’t know when to put a cork in it. Even I was starting to get annoyed. So, Wally, worst nightmare or not worst nightmare?
WALLY: Well, it may be annoying, but I can’t call it my worst nightmare.
CLYDE: Correct! There may be no bigger nuisance than a gabby, nosy busybody neighbor, but not your worst nightmare. And with your complete niceness toward your neighbors even the most annoying of them don’t earn your enmity. Now onto category number two, nightmarish coworkers.
WALLY: Actually my coworkers are all right.
CLYDE: Aw, how sweet! But seriously, anyone who has ever had a job has a had a nightmarish coworker. Am I right, people?
(Audience shouts in agreement.)
CLYDE: More specifically, coworkers who talk about their medical problems in explicit detail.
(GROSS COWORKER enters.)
GROSS COWORKER: So the doc finally lanced my carbuncle, and you should’ve seen all the pus that oozed out! Looked like old cottage cheese, and the smell! Oh my god, bad enough to make you throw up! Which is the last thing I need with my irritable bowel syndrome, or as my doc likes to refer to my case, unpredictable bowel syndrome.
CLYDE: So Wally, is this or is this not your worst nightmare?
WALLY: Well, it is pretty awful, but I wouldn’t call it my worst nightmare.
CLYDE: Correct! Though coworkers and people in general describing their stomach turning medical maladies may be offensive on many levels, it does not rise to the level worst nightmare for our contestant.
WALLY: So how do you know what my nightmares are?
CLYDE: Dude! This is all in your head! Now onto our next scenario.
GROSS COWORKER: Don’t you want to hear about about my painful rectal itch?
CLYDE: Uh, next time.
GROSS COWORKER: Okay, and I’ll also go into great detail about my urinary tract infection.
(GROSS COWORKER exits.)
CLYDE: Now let’s switch gears from the workplace to the political arena. I present to you the Partisan Extremist.
(PARTISAN EXTREMIST enters.)
PARTISAN EXTREMIST: So you’ve decided to switch sides and join up with those traitors who are ruining America!
PARTISAN EXTREMIST: Don’t you deny it! I’ve been onto you since you voted for that candidate I told you not to vote for!
WALLY: (to CLYDE) What is this person talking about?
CLYDE: Seems pretty straight forward to me.
WALLY: But what issue is (s)he talking about? And which side is (s)he on?
CLYDE: Does it matter? It’s a partisan extremist, so no answer you give will be correct.
WALLY: But I’m a moderate who doesn’t want to upset anyone, why this person?
CLYDE: Duh, To make this into a nightmare. No offense, but you’re a little slow on the uptake.
PARTISAN EXTREMIST: Moderates are the worst people of all!
WALLY: But why?
PARTISAN EXTREMIST: Because I have to work extra hard to find a way to judge and attack them!
WALLY: (to CLYDE) How long does he go on like this?
CLYDE: Too long. So, worst nightmare, or not your worst nightmare?
WALLY: Well, I can’t say it’s my worst nightmare, but-
CLYDE: Correct! Because of your default compliance when dealing with most people you don’t get entangled in a lot of political intrigue. (to PARTISAN EXTREMIST) You can go now.
PARTISAN EXTREMIST: You think you can repress me? Hell no, I won’t go! Hell no, I won’t go!
CLYDE: Uh oh, we’ve got another situation. (signals to SECURITY)
(SECURITY enters and pulls away PARTISAN EXTREMIST.)
PARTISAN EXTREMIST: Your Nazi Communist jackbooted secret police and CIA black site tactics will not silence the voice of the people! Attica! Attica! Attica! (pulled off stage)
CLYDE: Well that broadside sure covered a lot of territory.
WALLY: How many more of these nightmare scenarios are there?
CLYDE: No one knows, it’s a nightmare! Now onto our next scenario. How do you feel about people who are generally obnoxious?
WALLY: Can’t say I like their company. Is that the next scenario?
CLYDE: Sort of. How about obnoxiousness…mixed with drunkenness!
(OBNOXIOUS DRUNK enters with a bottle and a couple of shot glasses.)
OBNOXIOUS DRUNK: Hey, man! Let’s do shots!
WALLY: That’s okay, I’m not much of a drinker.
OBNOXIOUS DRUNK: Aw, c’mon, man! You used to be cool!
WALLY: Really? I didn’t think I ever was.
OBNOXIOUS DRUNK: (drapes arm around WALLY and hangs on him) One little drink, c’mon, drink up! (tries to force drink on WALLY)
WALLY: (tries to free himself) No, I don’t want a drink!
OBNOXIOUS DRUNK: Will you be my best friend?
CLYDE: (laughs) Sure is friendly, isn’t he.
WALLY: I’m being violated!
OBNOXIOUS DRUNK: But I love you, man!
WALLY: (to CLYDE) Can’t you get rid of this guy? His booze breath is killing me!
CLYDE: Sure, just answer one little question. Worst nightmare, or not?
WALLY: Sure, worst nightmare! Will that make him go away?
CLYDE: Actually, not your worst nightmare. Truth is you don’t have much of a social life, so you don’t the get the opportunity to meet a lot of drunks.
WALLY: So I’m stuck with this?
CLYDE: No worries. (calls out) Oh bouncer!
(SECURITY returns and drags away OBNOXIOUS DRUNK.)
OBNOXIOUS DRUNK: Hey, what’s going on here? Will you guys do shots with me? (pulled offstage)
CLYDE: So, nosy neighbors, hellish work conditions, and groping drunks, and now you’re probably wondering where do we go from here.
WALLY: Will this end soon?
CLYDE: Wally, in the nocturnal dream state, as well as nightmare state, time collapses in such a way that a minute can seem like an hour.
WALLY: So how much longer?
CLYDE: Oh, just another minute or two. (laughs)
WALLY: I’m not liking this.
CLYDE: Oh, now you’re not liking this? Wow, you’ll put up with anything. So, what do all lower middle class people like yourself fear more than anything?
WALLY: Uh, I don’t know.
CLYDE: Economic disaster!
WALLY: I was afraid of that.
CLYDE: I present to you…the Tech Mogul!
(TECH MOGUL enters.)
TECH MOGUL: Greetings.
WALLY: (to CLYDE) His tech company must employ many people I’m sure, so this scenario can’t be all bad.
CLYDE: Ha! This is a nightmare, not the Hallmark Channel. And this seemingly harmless computer nerd is actually an erratic eccentric who’s going to plunk down a wad of cash and buy your entire neighborhood.
WALLY: Oh no! Does that mean my rent will go up again?
CLYDE: Not in the least.
WALLY: Whew, that’s a relief.
CLYDE: He’s going to bulldoze your house and every other house for four city blocks.
WALLY: (shocked) But why?
TECH MOGUL: I’m going to build my ostentatious dream mansion!
WALLY: But what about me? Where am I going to go?
CLYDE: Yes! How would you like to live in lovely Lodi?
CLYDE: Terrific Turlock?
CLYDE: Sunny Stockton? Bucolic Barstow? Vacuous Vacaville? I’m running out of adjectives here.
TECH MOGUL: What a lovely little creek over there. Think I’ll cover it in asphalt and turn it into a parking lot.
WALLY: When does this end?
TECH MOGUL: End? I’m only getting started. Next, I’m going to dig up that sacred Ohlone burial ground so I can put in a wine cellar!
WALLY: (to CLYDE) Is this legal?
CLYDE: Is this nightmare legal? Your naive concepts of right and wrong, as well as legal and illegal, just don’t matter here.
TECH MOGUL: Hmm, how can I get a better view of the bay? I’ve got it, I’ll blow up that hill over there!
WALLY: (exasperated) How can I stop such lawlessness?
CLYDE: Very nightmarish, isn’t it?
WALLY: Yeah, I’m about to be one of the economic refugees fleeing my hometown!
CLYDE: So worst nightmare?
WALLY: Well, this seems more like a far reaching societal nightmare rather than a personal nightmare aimed at me.
CLYDE: So not your worst nightmare?
WALLY: Only for those technical reasons.
CLYDE: Correct! (to TECH MOGUL) Oh look, there’s a neighborhood that needs gentrifying.
TECH MOGUL: (excited) Where?
(TECH MOGUL exits.)
CLYDE: Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground, Wally. So you’re probably wondering what could possibly be the next nightmare scenario?
WALLY: Actually I was wondering when is this all going to end.
CLYDE: (chuckles warmly) I’ll bet you are. But you will be happy to know that we’re nearing the end of this portentous and preposterous procession.
CLYDE: Yes, finally. So no doubt you’re familiar with the phrase about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts?
WALLY: Uh oh.
CLYDE: Already with the apprehension, and I haven’t even described this nightmare scenario yet.
WALLY: But that sounded scary, like it’s multiple nightmares.
CLYDE: Never fear, this final nightmare actually involves something…quite precious.
WALLY: (warily) How precious?
CLYDE: Something, or rather someones, many people have been spending a lot more time with since the pandemic.
WALLY: And that is?
(CHILDREN 1,2, and 3 run onto stage and mob around WALLY.)
CHILD 1: When are we going to eat?
CHILD 2: I need help with my homework!
CHILD 3: When’s this stupid quarantine going to be over?
CHILD 1: I want ice cream for dinner!
CHILD 2: I hate math!
CHILD 3: My mask smells like barf!
WALLY: Oh my god! They’re relentless!
CLYDE: Yes, ever since the quarantine adults have been spending more time with their children than they ever thought they would. So, so, so much time. Not your worst nightmare, or worst nightmare ever?
CHILD 1: You don’t buy us enough stuff!
CHILD 2: I’m stupid because of you!
CHILD 3: (coughs) I’m sick!
WALLY: Yes! Worst nightmare! Now, for love of god, please make it stop!
CLYDE: Okay, kids, that’ll be enough.
CHILD 1: No! I wanna hear a bedtime story!
CHILD 2: But it’s not bedtime! Let’s watch a movie!
CHILD 3: I’m contagious!
CLYDE: Kids, if you don’t leave Mr. Milsap alone, I will turn this game show around right now!
(CHILDREN stop annoying WALLY.)
CHILDREN: We’re sorry, mister.
CLYDE: And with that, we have finally discovered the worst nightmare of our contestant, Wally Milsap.
WALLY: (pause) So do I win anything?
CLYDE: What are you talking about?
WALLY: But isn’t this a game show?
CLYDE: It is, and not just any game show, but… (with audience) Your Worst Nightmare! (by himself) Good night, everyone!
©2020 Robert Kirkendall